Leo Cullen on the Heineken Champions Cup pool draw

Today’s Heineken Champions Cup draw saw Leinster Rugby placed in Pool 1 along with Lyon, Northampton Saints and Benetton Rugby.

Speaking to leinsterrugby.ie after the draw, head coach Leo Cullen discussed the province’s pool opponents and the challenge that awaits in Europe in the 2019/20 campaign.

Leo Cullen Heineken Champions Cup draw reaction: 

“Today was the first day of pre-season for us in UCD so to now have the full Heineken Champions Cup draw confirmed, in addition to last week’s confirmed Guinness PRO14 conferences, it definitely sharpens the mind for the considerable task ahead this season.

“We have seen over the last few years just how difficult it is to compete in this competition and as always the first priority will be to get out of our pool and doing that in Pool 1 will not be easy.

“Lyon have been very consistent in the French TOP14 the last few seasons and their 3rd place finish last season was a further example of that consistency improving on their 5th place the season before. They are a very ambitious team that are well coached by Pierre Mignoni and we need to be at our very best to perform against them in the Matmut Stadium, where of course we played our 2017 Champions Cup Semi-Final against Clermont.

“We have recent history against Northampton Saints playing them in 2016 but also before that in 2013 with us winning in Franklin’s Gardens and them winning in the Aviva Stadium a week later in the return fixture. And then of course in the Final itself in 2011.

“Finally, Benetton Rugby have been one of the success stories of the PRO14 the last few seasons and in particular qualifying for the Champions Cup on merit for the first time in their history last year. The work that Kieran Crowley has done there has meant their performances have continued to improve during his time and they have made some shrewd signings in the off-season with the likes of Ian Keatley going there.

“Overall it’s a very competitive pool but we very much look forward to the challenge that it presents in particular in a World Cup season.”